Why Bubba Wallace is one of the 10 best NASCAR drivers in 2024

Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Bubba Wallace entered Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway in the 10th pole position, a favorable spot for him to replicate or better his results from the EchoPark Automotive 400. While Wallace finished seventh on Sunday, his placement served as another example of why he’s one of the best NASCAR drivers right now.

Wallace made the NASCAR playoffs for the first time in 2023, advancing to the Round of 12 before being eliminated. After taking what he learned from that experience, the 30-year-old vowed to be a more ‘aggressive, confident‘ driver in 2024.

Related: NASCAR standings, see where Bubba Wallace stands right now

He’s delivered on his promise, with 23XI Racing coming out of Texas ranked eighth and ninth in the NASCAR owner standings. The finish at the EchoPark Automotive 400 and the racing he’s done throughout this season, capture why he is one of the top 10 drivers this season.

Bubba Wallace stats comparison to other top drivers

Bubba Wallace
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The immediate argument against Wallace being one of the 10 best drivers in NASCAR is that he hasn’t won a race in 2024 and his last trip to victory lane came in the 2022 Cup Series. It would also be pointed out that Wallace has been atop the pole position just twice in the last three years.

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However, there are a lot of other ways to measure a driver’s success. Similar to pro sports, while championships and wins determine who is the best at their profession, numbers can help tell you who some of the best performers are consistent.

Highest average starting position 2024

  1. Kyle Larson – 7.7
  2. William Byron – 9.3
  3. Chase Elliott – 10.0
  4. Denny Hamlin – 10.1
  5. Martin Truex Jr – 10.6
  6. Ty Gibbs – 10.7
  7. Joey Logano – 11.3
  8. Bubba Wallace 11.7
  9. Tyler Reddick – 12.7
  10. Christopher Bell – 13.0

As the numbers from RacingReference.info highlight, Wallace has the eighth-highest average starting position among Cup Series drivers this season. He is a few tiers below the likes of Kyle Larson, William Byron, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott, but his average position rivals some of the other top drivers.

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Wallace is consistently one of the top drivers during qualifying, with a car that thrives in the clean air. While results are the most important thing in any sport, the No. 23 car is routinely putting itself in a very favorable position to be among the top 10 finishers.

Importantly, he isn’t just performing in qualifying and then falling into the back of the pack once the lights are bright and the racing begins. Wallace is also near the top of the leaderboard for stage points this season.

NASCAR stage points 2024

  1. Kyle Larson – 102 stage points
  2. Denny Hamlin – 76 stage points
  3. Martin Truex Jr – 74 stage points
  4. Ryan Blaney – 70 stage points
  5. Tyler Reddick – 53 stage points
  6. Bubba Wallace – 52 stage points
  7. Chase Elliott – 50 stage points
  8. Christopher Bell – 44 stage points
  9. William Byron – 42 stage points
  10. Ty Gibbs – 39 stage points

Wallace is one of just seven drivers this season with at least 50 stage points and only nine drivers have cleared the 40-point mark. The No. 23 is maintaining its place near the front of the pack in the first two stages of the race, which he again did on Sunday in Texas.

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Finally, we get down to the finish line. The most points are awarded at the end and fans rightfully only remember the finish of a great race rather than what happened on Saturday in qualifying or early on Sunday in the first two stages. Once again, Wallace stacks up with some of the best NASCAR drivers in 2024.

NASCAR top 5 finishes 2024

  1. Kyle Larson – 4
  2. William Byron – 4
  3. Ryan Blaney – 4
  4. Bubba Wallace – 3
  5. Ty Gibbs – 3
  6. Chase Elliott – 3
  7. Christopher Bell – 3
  8. Brad Keselowski – 3
  9. Alex Bowman – 3
  10. Tyler Reddick – 3

NASCAR top 10 finishes 2024

  1. William Byron – 6
  2. Tyler Reddick – 6
  3. Martin Truex Jr – 5
  4. Ty Gibbs – 5
  5. Christopher Bell – 5
  6. Chris Buescher – 5
  7. Kyle Larson – 4
  8. Bubba Wallace – 4
  9. Chase Elliott – 4
  10. Ryan Blaney – 4

Average Finish

  1. Martin Truex Jr – 9.9
  2. Chase Elliott – 10.3
  3. William Byron – 10.3
  4. Ty Gibbs – 10.6
  5. Kyle Larson – 11.8
  6. Denny Hamlin – 13.1
  7. Chris Buescher – 13.3
  8. Ross Chastain – 13.9
  9. Ryan Blaney – 13.9
  10. Tyler Reddick – 14.1
  11. Bubba Wallace – 14.3

Many of the drop drivers have a disastrous race that hurt their average finish and for Wallace that came at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he started fifth and finished 35th. Still, the numbers show why Wallace is one of the top drivers in NASCAR this season. It’s also worth examining the reasons for it.

Improved maturity, confidence showing up in 2024

Bubba Wallace
Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Wallace has admitted that he hasn’t always been the most composed and mature driver. Even when he first joined 23XI Racing, there were plenty of instances of Walalce cursing out his crew chief, fighting other drivers and completely losing his composure during races.

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It’s one thing to have brief moments of emotional outbursts, at times it can help a driver be more aggressive, but Wallace’s immediate impulses often got the best of him and lingered. It’s part of the reason why when things went poorly in 2022 and midway through the 2023 campaign, his emotions controlled his driving. However, he started maturing late in the year and even noticed it at Charlotte in the Round of 12 when a fight to stave off elimination ended in him being spun and wiped out his chances.

“Of course I was pissed, I drove angry the rest of the race. But it was a different type of pissed off. It wasn’t just to get out and throw a tantrum and show your ass on national TV, which I’ve done a handful of times. But it was just accepting the moment, that it wasn’t meant to be, and moving on and just focusing on next weekend.

Bubba Wallace to CBS Sports In October 2023

That maturity and poise have carried over into the 2024 season. After consecutive top-5 finishes at Daytona and Atlanta Motor Speedway, Wallace hit a rough patch. In Las Vegas, a top-five starting position turned into a disaster thanks to an unfortunate pit stop. Wallace’s pit crew couldn’t get a lug nut off, forcing him to fall from the top 15 into 35th. When the 23XI team finally got the lug nut off, Wallace was 10 laps down and had to serve a pass-through penalty for too many crew members over the wall.

It’s not the only bad luck Wallace has experienced in 2024. Just two laps shy of his third top-5 finish at Richmond Raceway, Larson’s car got loose and Wallace misjudged the speed which caused a collision heading into the turn. Larson still finished third but Wallace paid the price for the accident with a 13th-placed finish.

In each instance this season, Wallace has done a good job maintaining his composure and trying to make the best of the situation but he hasn’t been rewarded for it. All of that changed Sunday in Texas. In a three-wide battle for the lead with Chase Briscoe and Harrison Burton, Wallace and Briscoe both got loose and wrecked. Because of it, Wallace dropped to 25th.

This time around, Wallace’s composure allowed him to slowly fight his way back. While he had the benefit of multiple cautions extending the race, that also allowed him to take advantage of his skill on the restart. he steadily climbed his way back, ultimately finishing seventh.

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